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Love of God is the purpose and goal of Christian Perfection

3 min • Digitized on November 30, 2021

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 50
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


Blessed Francis, in speaking of perfection, often remarked that, although he heard very many people talking about it, he met with very few who practised it. He would say:

Many, indeed, are so mistaken in their estimate of what perfection is, that they take effects for the cause, the rivulet for the spring, the branches for the root, the accessories for the principle, and often even the shadow for the substance.

For myself, I know of no Christian perfection other than to love God with our whole heart and our neighbour as ourselves. All other perfection is falsely so entitled: it is sham gold that does not stand testing.

Charity is the only bond between Christians, the only virtue which unites us absolutely to God, and our neighbour.

In charity lies the end of every perfection and the perfection of every end. I know that mortification, prayer, and the other exercises of virtue, are all means to perfection, provided that they are practised in charity, and from the motive of charity. But we must never regard any of these means towards attaining perfection as being in themselves perfection. This would be to stop short on the road, and in the middle of the race, instead of reaching the goal.

The Apostle exhorts us, indeed, to run, but so as to carry off the prize [1 Cor. ix. 24.], which is for those only who have breath enough to reach the end of the course.

In a word, all our actions must be done in charity if we wish to walk in a manner, as says St. Paul, worthy of God; that is to say, to hasten on towards perfection.

Charity is the way of true life; it is the truth of the living way; it is the life of the way of truth. All virtue is dead without it: it is the very life of virtue. No one can reach the last and supreme end, God Himself, without charity; it is the way to Him. There is no true virtue without charity, says St. Thomas; it is the very truth of virtue.

In conclusion, and in answer to my repeated question as to how we were to go to work in order to attain to this perfection, this supreme love of God and of our neighbour, our Blessed Father said that we must use exactly the same method as we should in mastering any ordinary art or accomplishment. He said:

We learn to study by studying, to play on the lute by playing, to dance by dancing, to swim by swimming.

So also we learn to love God and our neighbour by loving them, and those who attempt any other method are mistaken.

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